ERIC Number: ED381777
Record Type: RIE
Publication Date: 1995-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
Writing Rhetorical Histories of Modern Revolutions: Rhetoric and Political Change in Poland, 1952-1992.
Ornatowski, Cezar M.
In the last 6 years, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe have been undergoing fundamental political reinvention. Scholars of language, literacy, and rhetoric can learn much from the study of rhetorical histories. Accordingly, a brief rhetorical history of these upheavals, particularly those in Poland, reveals the extent to which they are very much about the language of politics and public debate. According to literary professor Michal Glowinski, the major characteristic of Communist rhetoric in Poland was the dominance of simple, direct evaluation over sense. Such evaluations were always based on clear oppositions and polarizations: us vs. them, friend vs. foe, good vs. bad. It was thus a language that was already overinterpreted; each work, each expression, had one meaning and one meaning only. Because of this semantic reduction it did not tolerate synonyms or alternative ways of expression. Another major characteristic of this language was its strong "magical" quality: its orientation not towards describing reality but towards bringing it about. Desirable states were talked about as though they already existed. In the 1980s, public frustration and demands for real dialogue and meaningful reforms, coupled with a deteriorating economy, led to an acute rhetorical crisis. Ironically, Solidarity entered the elections with a program whose articulation painfully resembled, in spite of the differences in substance, the traditional rhetoric of propaganda. One problem continuing to face Poland is the persistence of the polarizing, valuative rhetoric, which originated in totalitarian discourse. (TB)
Publication Type: Opinion Papers; Speeches/Meeting Papers; Historical Materials
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers: Historical Background; Poland; Public Discourse; Rhetorical Stance; Solidarity (Poland)
Note: Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Conference on College Composition and Communication (46th, Washington, DC, March 23-25, 1995).